The goal of professional coaching is to help someone find his or her own way of thinking and applying it in his or her everyday tasks, and helping them learn on the job at the same time.

In this sense, a coach does not provide new skills, but acts more as a facilitator to refine the application of hard skills or soft skills that are already in place.

A coach’s focus is to tailor the facilitation process to the individual’s needs and adapt it to his or her way of learning on the job. The focus, then, is more on the potential of a person, rather than his or her performance, when looking at it from a talent management perspective.

This is mostly a one-to-one process in which the coach will provide suggestions, help frame problems but only intervene directly sporadically and support the person’s process in finding applicable solutions.

Coaching in practice

The whole process takes place within the same organization, with the coach being a manager or someone from another unit, depending on the perspective that is needed. The main requirements for the coach are expertise in the specific field where the coached individual needs support and ability to transmit knowledge based on previous experience.

Usually, this approach has a relatively short-term focus (in comparison to training), as the intervention is supposed to be focused and precise on specific aspects of the person’s way of working. The idea is to provide not only a new perspective, but an added ability to learn on the job independently.

The same skillset can be used by a person in a coaching setting or in a training setting. These two are often used as synonyms, however they work in a remarkably different way. Awareness of this difference is fundamental to achieve their different goals, otherwise there is a very high risk of wasting resources and time.